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This edliion first published 1915 

The text follows that of th 

Definitive Edition 

WHAT determined the speech that startled him 
in the course of their encounter scarcely matters, 
being probably but some words spoken by him 
self quite without intention spoken as they 
lingered and slowly moved together after their 
renewal of acquaintance. He had been conveyed 
by friends an hour or two before to the house at 
which she was staying ; the party of visitors at 
the other house, of whom he was one, and thanks 
to whom it was his theory, as always, that he was 
lost in the crowd, had been invited over to 
luncheon. There had been after luncheon much 
dispersal, all in the interest of the original motive, 
a view of Weatherend itself and the fine things, 
intrinsic features, pictures, heirlooms, treasures of 
all the arts, that made the place almost famous ; 
and the great rooms were so numerous that guests 
could wander at their will, hang back from the 
principal group and in cases where they took such 
matters with the last seriousness give themselves 
up to mysterious appreciations and measurements. 
There were persons to be observed, singly or in 



couples, bending toward objects in out-of-the-way 
corners with their hands on their knees and their 
heads nodding quite as with the emphasis of an 
excited sense of smell. When they were two they 
either mingled their sounds of ecstasy or melted into 
silences of even deeper import, so that there were 
aspects of the occasion that gave it for Marcher much 
the air of the "look round," previous to a sale highly 
advertised, that excites or quenches, as may be, 
the dream of acquisition. The dream of acquisi 
tion at Weatherend would have had to be wild 
indeed, and John Marcher found himself, among 
such suggestions, disconcerted almost equally by 
the presence of those who knew too much and 
by that of those who knew nothing. The great 
rooms caused so much poetry and history to press 
upon him that he needed some straying apart to 
feel in a proper relation with them, though this 
impulse was not, as happened, like the gloating of 
some of his companions, to be compared to the 
movements of a dog sniffing a cupboard. It had 
an issue promptly enough in a direction that was 
not to have been calculated. 

It led, briefly, in the course of the October 
afternoon, to his closer meeting with May Bartram, 
whose face, a reminder, yet not quite a remem 
brance, as they sat much separated at a very long 
table, had begun merely by troubling him rather 


pleasantly. It affected him as the sequel of 
something of which he had lost the beginning. 
He knew it, and for the time quite welcomed it, 
as a continuation, but did n't know what it con 
tinued, which was an interest or an amusement 
the greater as he was also somehow aware yet 
without a direct sign from her that the young 
woman herself had n't lost the thread. She 
had n't lost it, but she would n't give it back to 
him, he saw, without some putting forth of his 
hand for it ; and he not only saw that, but saw 
several things more, things odd enough in the 
light of the fact that at the moment some accident 
of grouping brought them face to face he was still 
merely fumbling with the idea that any contact 
between them in the past would have had no 
importance. If it had had no importance he 
scarcely knew why his actual impression of her 
should so seem to have so much ; the answer to 
which, however, was that in such a life as they all 
appeared to be leading for the moment one could 
but take things as they came. He was satisfied, 
without in the least being able to say why, that 
this young lady might roughly have ranked in the 
house as a poor relation ; satisfied also that she 
was not there on a brief visit, but was more or 
less a part of the establishment almost a 
working, a remunerated part. Did n't she enjoy 



at periods a protection that she paid for by 
helping, among other services, to show the place 
and explain it, deal with the tiresome people, 
answer questions about the dates of the building, 
the styles of the furniture, the authorship of the 
pictures, the favourite haunts of the ghost ? It 
was n't that she looked as if you could have given 
her shillings it was impossible to look less so. 
Yet when she finally drifted toward him, dis 
tinctly handsome, though ever so much older 
older than when he had seen her before it 
might have been as an effect of her guessing that 
he had, within the couple of hours, devoted more 
imagination to her than to all the others put 
together, and had thereby penetrated to a kind 
of truth that the others were too stupid for. She 
was there on harder terms than any one ; she 
was there as a consequence of things suffered, 
one way and another, in the interval of years ; 
and she remembered him very much as she was 
remembered only a good deal better. 

By the time they at last thus came to speech 
they were alone in one of the rooms remarkable 
for a fine portrait over the chimney-place out 
of which their friends had passed, and the charm 
of it was that even before they had spoken they 
had practically arranged with each other to stay 
behind for talk. The charm, happily, was in 


other things too partly in there being scarce a 
spot at Weatherend without something to stay 
behind for. It was in the way the autumn day 
looked into the high windows as it waned ; the 
way the red light, breaking at the close from under 
a low sombre sky, reached out in a long shaft and 
played over old wainscots, old tapestry, old gold, 
old colour. It was most of all perhaps in the way 
she came to him as if, since she had been turned 
on to deal with the simpler sort, he might, should 
he choose to keep the whole thing down, just take 
her mild attention for a part of her general busi 
ness. As soon as he heard her voice, however, 
the gap was filled up and the missing link supplied ; 
the slight irony he divined in her attitude lost its 
advantage. He almost jumped at it to get there 
before her. " I met you years and years ago in 
Rome. I remember all about it." She confessed 
to disappointment she had been so sure he 
did n't ; and to prove how well he did he began 
to pour forth the particular recollections that 
popped up as he called for them. Her face and 
her voice, all at his service now, worked the 
miracle the impression operating like the torch 
of a lamplighter who touches into flame, one by 
one, a long row of gas-jets. Marcher flattered 
himself the illumination was brilliant, yet he was 
really still more pleased on her showing him, with 



amusement, that in his haste to make everything 
right he had got most things rather wrong. It 
had n't been at Rome it had been at Naples ; 
and it had n't been eight years before it had 
been more nearly ten. She had n't been, either, 
with her uncle and aunt, but with her mother and 
brother ; in addition to which it was not with the 
Pembles he had been, but with the Boyers, coming 
down in their company from Rome a point on 
which she insisted, a little to his confusion, and 
as to which she had her evidence in hand. The 
Boyers she had known, but did n't know the 
Pembles, though she had heard of them, and it 
was the people he was with who had made them 
acquainted. The incident of the thunderstorm 
that had raged round them with such violence as 
to drive them for refuge into an excavation 
this incident had not occurred at the Palace of 
the Caesars, but at Pompeii, on an occasion when 
they had been present there at an important 

He accepted her amendments, he enjoyed her 
corrections, though the moral of them was, she 
pointed out, that he really did n't remember the 
least thing about her ; and he only felt it as a 
drawback that when all was made strictly historic 
there did n't appear much of anything left. They 
lingered together still, she neglecting her office 


for from the moment he was so clever she had no 
proper right to him and both neglecting the 
house, just waiting as to see if a memory or two 
more would n't again breathe on them. It had n't 
taken them many minutes, after all, to put down 
on the table, like the cards of a pack, those that 
constituted their respective hands ; only what 
came out was that the pack was unfortunately not 
perfect that the past, invoked, invited, en 
couraged, could give them, naturally, no more 
than it had. It had made them anciently meet 
her at twenty, him at twenty-five ; but nothing 
was so strange, they seemed to say to each other, 
as that, while so occupied, it had n't done a little 
more for them. They looked at each other as 
with the feeling of an occasion missed ; the 
present would have been so much better if the 
other, in the far distance, in the foreign land, 
had n't been so stupidly meagre. There were n't, 
apparently, all counted, more than a dozen little 
old things that had succeeded in coming to pass 
between them ; trivialities of youth, simplicities 
of freshness, stupidities of ignorance, small possible 
germs, but too deeply buried too deeply (did n't 
it seem ?) to sprout after so many years. Marcher 
could only feel he ought to have rendered her 
some service saved her from a capsized boat 
in the bay or at least recovered her dressing-bag, 



filched from her cab in the streets of Naples by 
a lazzarone with a stiletto. Or it would have been 
nice if he could have been taken with fever all 
alone at his hotel, and she could have come to 
look after him, to write to his people, to drive 
him out in convalescence. Then they would be 
in possession of the something or other that their 
actual show seemed to lack. It yet somehow 
presented itself, this show, as too good to be 
spoiled ; so that they were reduced for a few 
minutes more to wondering a little helplessly 
why since they seemed to know a certain 
number of the same people their reunion had 
been so long averted. They did n't use that name 
for it, but their delay from minute to minute to 
join the others was a kind of confession that they /- 
did n't quite want it to be a failure. 
attempted supposition of reasons for their not 
having met but showed how little they knew of 
each other. There came in fact a moment when 
Marcher felt a positive pang. It was vain to 
pretend she was an old friend, for all the com 
munities were wanting, in spite of which it was 
as an old friend that he saw she would have suited 
him. He had new ones enough was surrounded 
with them for instance on the stage of the other 
house ; as a new one he probably would n't have 
so much as noticed her. He would have liked to 

invent something, get her to make-believe with 
him that some passage of a romantic or critical 
kind had originally occurred. He was really 
almost reaching out in imagination as against 
time for something that would do, and saying 
to himself that if it did n't come this sketch of 
a fresh start would show for quite awkwardly 
bungled. They would separate, and now for no 
second or no third chance. They would have 
tried and not succeeded. Then it was, just at the 
turn, as he afterwards made it out to himself, 
that, everything else failing, she herself decided 
to take up the case and, as it~~were, save the 
situation. He felt as soon as she spoke that she 
had been consciously keeping back what she said 
and hoping to get on without it ; a scruple in 
her that immensely touched him when, by the 
end of three or four minutes more, he was able 
to measure it. What she brought out, at any 
rate, quite cleared the air and supplied the link 
the link it was so odd he should frivolously have 
managed to lose. 

" You know you told me something I 've never 
forgotten and that again and again has made me 
think of you since ; it was that tremendously hot 
day when we went to Sorrento, across the bay, 
for the breeze. What I allude to was what you 
said to me, on the way back, as we sat under the 



awning of the boat enjoying the cool. Have you 
forgotten ? " 

He had forgotten, and was even more surprised 
than ashamed. But the great thing was that he 
saw in this no vulgar reminder of any " sweet " 
speech. The vanity of women had long memories, 
but she was making no claim on him of a com 
pliment or a mistake. With another woman, a 
totally different one, he might have feared the 
recall possibly even some imbecile " offer." So, 
in having to say that he had indeed forgotten, 
he was conscious rather of a loss than of a gain ; 
he already saw an interest in the matter of her 
mention. " I try to think but I give it up. 
Yet I remember the Sorrento day." 

" I'm not very sure you do," May Bartram 
after a moment said ; " and I'm not very sure 
I ought to want you to. It 's dreadful to bring a 
person back at any time to what he was ten years 
before. If you 've lived away from it," she smiled, 
" so much the better." 

" Ah if you have n't why should I ? " he 

" Lived away, you mean, from what I myself 
was ? " 

" From what I was. I was of course an ass," 
Marcher went on ; " but I would rather know 
from you just the sort of ass I was than from 

the moment you have something in your mind 
not know anything." 

Still, however, she hesitated. " But if you 've 
completely ceased to be that sort ? " 

" Why I can then all the more bear to know. 
Besides, perhaps I have n't." 

" Perhaps. Yet if you have n't," she added, 
" I should suppose you 'd remember. Not indeed 
that / in the least connect with my impression 
the invidious name you use. If I had only thought 
you foolish," she explained, " the tiling I speak 
of would n't so have remained with me. It was 
about yourself." She waited as if it might come 
to him ; but as, only meeting her eyes in wonder, 
he gave no sign, she burnt her ships. " Has it 
ever happened ? " 

Then it was that, while he continued to stare, 
a light broke for him and the blood slowly came 
to his face, which began to burn with recognition. 

" Do you mean I told you ? " But he 

faltered, lest what came to him shouldn't be 
right, lest he should only give himself away. 

" It was something about yourself that it was 
natural one should n't forget that is if one 
remembered you at all. That 's why I ask you," 
she smiled, " if the thing you then spoke of has 
ever come to pass ? " 

Oh then he saw, but he was lost hi wonder and 



found himself embarrassed. This, he also saw, 
made her sorry for him, as if her allusion had been 
a mistake. It took him but a moment, however, 
to feel it had n't been, much as it had been a 
surprise. After the first little shock of it her 
knowledge on the contrary began, even if rather 
strangely, to taste sweet to him. She was the 
only other person in the world then who would 
have it, and she had had it all these years, while 
the fact of his having so breathed his secret had 
unaccountably faded from him. No wonder they 
could n't have met as if nothing had happened. 
" I judge," he finally said, " that I know what 
you mean. Only I had strangely enough lost any 
sense of having taken you so far into my con 

" Is it because you 've taken so many others as 
well ? " 

" I 've taken nobody. Not a creature since 

" So that I 'm the only person who knows ? " 

" The only person in the world." 

" Well," she quickly replied, " I myself have 
never spoken. I 've never, never repeated of you 
what you told me." She looked at him so that 
he perfectly believed her. Their eyes met over 
it in such a way that he was without a doubt 
" And I never will." 


She spoke with an earnestness that, as if almost 
excessive, put him at ease about her possible 
derision. Somehow the whole question was a 
new luxury to him that is from the moment 
she was in possession. If she did n't take the 
sarcastic view she clearly took the sympathetic, 
and that was what he had had, in all the long 
time, from no one whomsoever. What he felt was 
that he could n't at present have begun to tell 
her, and yet could profit perhaps exquisitely by 
the accident of having done so of old. " Please 
don't then. We 're just right as it is." 

" Oh I am," she laughed, " if you are ! " To 
which she added : " Then you do still feel in the 
same way ? " 

It was impossible he should n't take to himself 
that she was really interested, though it all kept 
coming as a perfect surprise. He had thought of 
himself so long as abominably alone, and lo he 
was n't alone a bit. He had n't been, it appeared, 
for an hour since those moments on the Sorrento 
boat. It was she who had been, he seemed to see 
as he looked at her she who had been made so 
by the graceless fact of his lapse of fidelity. To 
tell her what he had told her what had it been 
but to ask something of her ? something that she 
had given, in her charity, without his having, by 
a remembrance, by a return of the spirit, failing 
B 17 


another encounter, so much as thanked her. 
What he had asked of her had been simply at first 
not to laugh at him. She had beautifully not 
done so for ten years, and she was not doing so 
now. So he had endless gratitude to make up. 
Only for that he must see just how he had figured 
to her. " What, exactly, was the account I 
gave ? " 

" Of the way you did feel ? Well, it was very 
simple. You said you had had from your earliest 
time, as the deepest thing within you, the sense 
of being kept for something rare and strange, 
possibly prodigious and terrible, that was sooner 
or later to happen to you, that you had in your 
bones the foreboding and the conviction of, and 
that would perhaps overwhelm you." 

" Do you call that very simple ? " John 
Marcher asked. 

She thought a moment. " It was perhaps 
because I seemed, as you spoke, to understand 

" You do understand it ? " he eagerly asked. 

Again she kept her kind eyes on him. " You 
still have the belief ? " 

" Oh ! " he exclaimed helplessly. There was 
too much to say. 

" Whatever it 's to be," she clearly made out, 
" it has n't yet come." 


He shook his head in complete surrender now. 
" It has n't yet come. Only, you know, it is n't 
anything I 'm to do, to achieve in the world, to 
be distinguished or admired for. I 'm not such 
an ass as that. It would be much better, no 
doubt, if I were." 

" It 's to be something you 're merely to suffer ? " 

" Well, say to wait for to have to meet, to 
face, to see suddenly break out in my life ; possibly 
destroying all further consciousness, possibly 
annihilating me ; possibly, on the other hand, 
only altering everything, striking at the root of 
all my world and leaving me to the consequences, 
however they shape themselves." 

She took this in, but the light in her eyes con 
tinued for him not to be that of mockery. " Is n't 
what you describe perhaps but the expectation 
or at any rate the sense of danger, familiar to so 
many people of falling in love ? " 

John Marcher thought. " Did you ask me 
that before ? " 

"No I was n't so free-and-easy then. But 
it 's what strikes me now." 

" Of course," he said after a moment, " it 
strikes you. Of course it strikes me. Of course 
what 's in store for me may be no more than that. 
The only thing is," he went on, " that I think if 
it had been that I should by this time know." 



" Do you mean because you 've been in love ? " 
And then as he but looked at her in silence : 
" You Ve been in love, and it has n't meant such 
a cataclysm, has n't proved the great affair ? " 

" Here I am, you see. It has n't been over 

" Then it has n't been love," said May Bartram. 

" Well, I at least thought it was. I took it for 
that I Ve taken it till now. It was agreeable, 
it was delightful, it was miserable," he explained. 
" But it was n't strange. It was n't what my 
affair 's to be." 

" You want something all to yourself some 
thing that nobody else knows or has known ? " 

" It is n't a question of what I ' want ' God 
knows I don't want anything. It 's only a question 
of the apprehension that haunts me that I live 
with day by day." 

He said this so lucidly and consistently that he 
could see it further impose itself. If she had n't been 
interested before she 'd have been interested now. 

" Is it a sense of coming violence ? " 

Evidently now too again he liked to talk of 
it. " I don't think of it as when it does come 
necessarily violent. I only think of it as natural 
and as of course above all unmistakeable. I think 
of it simply as the thing. The thing will of itself 
appear natural." 


" Then how will it appear strange ? " 

Marcher bethought himself. " It won't to 

" To whom then ? " 

" Well," he replied, smiling at last, " say to 

" Oh then I 'm to be present ? " 

" Why you are present since you know." 

" I see." She turned it over. " But I mean 
at the catastrophe." 

At this, for a minute, their lightness gave way 
to their gravity ; it was as if the long look 
they exchanged held them together. " It will 
only depend on yourself if you '11 watch with 

" Are you afraid ? " she asked. 

" Don't leave me wozo," he went on. 

" Are you afraid ? " she repeated. 

" Do you think me simply out of my mind ? " 
he pursued instead of answering. " Do I merely 
strike you as a harmless lunatic ? " 

" No," said May Bartram. " I understand 
you. I believe you." 

" You mean you feel how my obsession poor 
old thing may correspond to some possible 
reality ? " 

" To some possible reality." 

" Then you will watch with me ? " 



She hesitated, then for the third time put her 
question. " Are you afraid ? " 

" Did I tell you I was at Naples ? " 

" No, you said nothing about it." 

" Then I don't know. And I should like to 
know," said John Marcher. " You '11 tell me 
yourself whether you think so. If you '11 watch 
with me you '11 see." 

" Very good then." They had been moving 
by this time across the room, and at the door, 
before passing out, they paused as for the full 
wind-up of their understanding. " I '11 watch 
with you," said May Bartram. 



THE fact that she " knew " knew and yet 
neither chaffed him nor betrayed him had in 
a short time begun to constitute between them 
a goodly bond, which became more marked when, 
within the year that followed their afternoon at 
Weatherend, the opportunities for meeting multi 
plied. The event that thus promoted these 
occasions was the death of the ancient lady her 
great-aunt, under whose wing, since losing her 
mother, she had to such an extent found shelter, 
and who, though but the widowed mother of the 
new successor to the property, had succeeded 
thanks to a high tone and a high temper in 
not forfeiting the supreme position at the great 
house. The deposition of this personage arrived 
but with her death, which, followed by many 
changes, made in particular a difference for the 
young woman in whom Marcher's expert attention 
had recognised from the first a dependent with a 
pride that might ache though it did n't bristle. 
Nothing for a long time had made him easier 
than the thought that the aching must have been 



much soothed by Miss Bartram's now finding her 
self able to set up a small home in London. She 
had acquired property, to an amount that made 
that luxury just possible, under her aunt's 
extremely complicated will, and when the whole 
matter began to be straightened out, which indeed 
took time, she let him know that the happy issue 
was at last in view. He had seen her again 
before that day, both because she had more than 
once accompanied the ancient lady to town and 
because he had paid another visit to the friends 
who so conveniently made of Weatherend one 
of the charms of their own hospitality. These 
friends had taken him back there ; he had 
achieved there again with Miss Bartram some 
quiet detachment ; and he had in London suc 
ceeded in persuading her to more than one brief 
absence from her aunt. They went together, on 
these latter occasions, to the National Gallery 
and the South Kensington Museum, where, among 
vivid reminders, they talked of Italy at large 
not now attempting to recover, as at first, the 
taste of their youth and their ignorance. That 
recovery, the first day at Weatherend, had served its 
purpose well, had given them quite enough ; so that 
they were, to Marcher's sense, no longer hovering 
about the head-waters of their stream, but had felt 
their boat pushed sharply off and down the current. 


They were literally afloat together ; for our 
gentleman this was marked, quite as marked as 
that the fortunate cause of it was just the buried 
treasure of her knowledge. He had with his own 
hands dug up this little hoard, brought to light 
that is to within reach of the dim day constituted 
by their discretions and privacies the object 
of value the hiding-place of which he had, after 
putting it into the ground himself, so strangely, 
so long forgotten. The rare luck of his having 
again just stumbled on the spot made him in 
different to any other question ; he would doubt 
less have devoted more time to the odd accident 
of his lapse of memory if he had n't been moved 
to devote so much to the sweetness, the comfort, 
as he felt, for the future, that this accident itself 
had helped to keep fresh. It had never entered 
into his plan that any one should " know ", and 
mainly for the reason that it was n't in liim to 
tell any one. That would have been impossible, 
for nothing but the amusement of a cold world 
would have waited on it. Since, however, a 
mysterious fate had opened his mouth betimes, 
in spite of him, he would count that a compensa 
tion and profit by it to the utmost. That the 
right person should know tempered the asperity 
of his secret more even than his shyness had per 
mitted him to imagine ; and May Bartram was 



clearly right, because well, because there she 
was. Her knowledge simply settled it ; he would 
have been sure enough by this time had she been 
wrong. There was that in his situation, no doubt, 
that disposed him too much to see her as a mere 
confidant, taking all her light for him from the 
fact the fact only of her interest in his pre 
dicament ; from her mercy, sympathy, serious 
ness, her consent not to regard him as the funniest 
of the funny. Aware, in fine, that her price for 
him was just in her giving him this constant sense 
of his being admirably spared, he was careful to 
remember that she had also a life of her own, 
with things that might happen to her, things that 
in friendship one should likewise take account of. 
Something fairly remarkable came to pass with 
him, for that matter, in this connexion some 
thing represented by a certain passage of his 
consciousness, in the suddenest way, from one 
extreme to the other. 

He had thought himself, so long as nobody 
knew, the most disinterested person in the world, 
carrying his concentrated burden, his perpetual 
suspense, ever so quietly, holding his tongue about 
it, giving others no glimpse of it nor of its effect 
upon his life, asking of them no allowance and 
only making on his side all those that were asked. 
He had n't disturbed people with the queerness 


of their having to know a haunted man, though 
he had had moments of rather special temptation 
on hearing them say they were forsooth " un 
settled." If they were as unsettled as he was 
he who had never been settled for an hour in his 
life they would know what it meant. Yet it 
was n't, all the same, for him to make them, and 
he listened to them civilly enough. This was why 
he had such good though possibly such rather 
colourless manners ; this was why, above all, 
he could regard himself, in a greedy world, as 
decently as in fact perhaps even a little 
sublimely unselfish. Our point is accordingly 
that he valued this character quite sufficiently to 
measure his present danger of letting it lapse, 
against which he promised himself to be much 
on his guard. He was quite ready, none the less, 
to be selfish just a little, since surely no more 
charming occasion for it had come to him. " Just 
a little," in a word, was just as much as Miss 
Bartram, taking one day with another, would let 
him. He never would be in the least coercive, 
and would keep well before him the lines on 
which consideration for her the very highest 
ought to proceed. He would thoroughly establish 
the heads under which her affairs, her require 
ments, her peculiarities he went so far as to 
give them the latitude of that name would 



come into their intercourse. All this naturally 
was a sign of how much he took the intercourse 
itself for granted. There was nothing more to be 
done about that. It simply existed ; had sprung 
into being with her first penetrating question to 
him in the autumn light there at Weatherend. 
The real form it should have taken on the basis 
that stood out large was the form of their marry 
ing. But the devil in this was that the very basis 
itself put marrying out of the question. His 
conviction, his apprehension, his obsession, hi 
short, was n't a privilege he could invite a woman 
to share ; and that consequence of it was precisely 
what was the matter with him. Something or 
other lay in wait for him, amid the twists and the 
turns of the montlis and the years, like a crouching 
Beast in the Jungle. It signified little whether 
the crouching Beast were destined to slay him or 
to be slain. The definite point was the inevitable 
spring of the creature ; and the definite lesson 
from that was that a man of feeling did n't cause 
himself to be accompanied by a lady on a tiger- 
hunt. Such was the image under which he had 
ended by figuring his life. 

They had at first, none the less, in the scattered 
hours spent together, made no allusion to that 
view of it ; which was a sign he was handsomely 
alert to give that he didn't expect, that he in 


fact did n't care, always to be talking about it. 
Such a feature in one's outlook was really like a 
hump on one's back. The difference it made 
every minute of the day existed quite inde 
pendently of discussion. One discussed of course 
like a hunchback, for there was always, if nothing 
else, the hunchback face. That remained, and 
she was watching him ; but people watched best, 
as a general thing, in silence, so that such would 
be predominantly the manner of their vigil. Yet 
he did n't want, at the same time, to be tense and 
solemn ; tense and solemn was what he imagined 
he too much showed for with other people. The 
thing to be, with the one person who knew, was 
easy and natural to make the reference rather 
than be seeming to avoid it, to avoid it rather 
than be seeming to make it, and to keep it, in any 
case, familiar, facetious even, rather than pedantic 
and portentous. Some such consideration as the 
latter was doubtless in his mind for instance when 
he wrote pleasantly to Miss Bartram that perhaps 
the great thing he had so long felt as in the lap 
of the gods was no more than this circumstance, 
which touched him so nearly, of her acquiring a 
house in London. It was the first allusion they 
had yet again made, needing any other hitherto 
so little ; but when she replied, after having given 
him the news, that she was by no means satisfied 



with such a trifle as the climax to so special a 
suspense, she almost set him wondering if she 
had n't even a larger conception of singularity for 
him than he had for himself. He was at all events 
destined to become aware little by little, as time 
went by, that she was all the while looking at his 
life, judging it, measuring it, in the light of the 
thing she knew, which grew to be at last, with 
the consecration of the years, never mentioned 
between them save as " the real truth " about 
him. That had always been his own form of 
reference to it, but she adopted the form so 
quietly that, looking back at the end of a period, 
he knew there was no moment at which it was 
traceable that she had, as he might say, got inside 
his idea, or exchanged the attitude of beautifully 
indulging for that of still more beautifully believing 

It was always open to him to accuse her of 
seeing him but as the most harmless of maniacs, 
and this, in the long run since it covered so 
much ground was his easiest description of 
their friendship. He had a screw loose for her 
but she liked him in spite of it and was practically, 
against the rest of the world, his kind wise keeper, 
unremuncrated but fairly amused and, in the 
absence of other near ties, not disreputably 
occupied. The rest of the world of course thought 


him queer, but she, she only, knew how, and 
above all why, queer ; which was precisely what 
enabled her to dispose the concealing veil in the 
right folds. She took his gaiety from him 
since it had to pass with them for gaiety as 
she took everything else ; but she certainly so far 
justified by her unerring touch his finer sense of 
the degree to which he had ended by convincing 
her. She at least never spoke of the secret of 
his life except as " the real truth about you," and 
she had in fact a wonderful way of making it 
seem, as such, the secret of her own life too. That 
was in fine how he so constantly felt her as allow 
ing for him ; he could n't on the whole call it 
anything else. He allowed for himself, but she, 
exactly, allowed still more ; partly because, 
better placed for a sight of the matter, she traced 
his unhappy perversion through reaches of its 
course into which he could scarce follow it. He 
knew how he felt, but, besides knowing that, she 
knew how he looked as well ; he knew each of the 
things of importance he was insidiously kept from 
doing, but she could add up the amount they 
made, understand how much, with a lighter 
weight on his spirit, he might have done, and 
thereby establish how, clever as he was, he fell 
short. Above all she was in the secret of the 
difference between the forms he went through 



those of his little office under Government, those 
of caring for his modest patrimony, for his library, 
for his garden in the country, for the people in 
London whose invitations he accepted and repaid 
and the detachment that reigned beneath them 
and that made of all behaviour, all that could in 
the least be called behaviour, a long act of dis 
simulation. What it had come to was that he 
wore a mask painted with the social simper, out 
of the eye-holes of which there looked eyes of an 
expression not in the least matching the other 
features. This the stupid world, even after years, 
had never more than half discovered. It was only 
May Bartram who had, and she achieved, by an 
art indescribable, the feat of at once or perhaps 
it was only alternately meeting the eyes from in 
front and mingling her own vision, as from over 
his shoulder, with their peep through the apertures. 
So while they grew older together she did watch 
with him, and so she let this association give shape 
and colour to her own existence. Beneath her 
forms as well detachment had learned to sit, 
and behaviour had become for her, in the social 
sense, a false account of herself. There was but 
one account of her that would have been true all 
the while and that she could give straight to 
nobody, least of all to John Marcher. Her whole 
attitude was a virtual statement, but the per- 


ception of that only seemed called to take its 
place for him as one of the many things necessarily 
crowded out of his consciousness. If she had 
moreover, like himself, to make sacrifices to their 
real truth, it was to be granted that her com 
pensation might have affected her as more prompt 
and more natural. They had long periods, in 
this London time, during which, when they were 
together, a stranger might have listened to them 
without in the least pricking up his ears ; on the 
other hand the real truth was equally liable at 
any moment to rise to the surface, and the auditor 
would then have wondered indeed what they were 
talking about. They had from an early hour 
made up their mind that society was, luckily, 
unintelligent, and the margin allowed them by 
this had fairly become one of their commonplaces. 
Yet there were still moments when the situation 
turned almost fresh usually under the effect 
of some expression drawn from herself. Her 
expressions doubtless repeated themselves, but 
her intervals were generous. " What saves us, 
you know, is that we answer so completely to 
so usual an appearance : that of the man and 
woman whose friendship has become such a daily 
habit or almost as to be at last indispens 
able." That for instance was a remark she had 
frequently enough had occasion to make, though 
c 33 


she had given it at different times different 
developments. What we are especially con 
cerned with is I he turn it happened to take from 
her one afternoon when he had come to see her 
in honour of her birthday. This anniversary had 
fallen on a Sunday, at a season of thick fog and 
general outward gloom ; but he had brought her 
his customary offering, having known her now 
long enough to have established a hundred small 
traditions. It was one of his proofs to himself, 
the present he made her on her birthday, that 
he had n't sunk into real selfishness. It was 
mostly nothing more than a small trinket, but it 
was always fine of its kind, and he was regularly 
careful to pay for it more than he thought he 
could afford. " Our habit saves you, at least, 
don't you sec ? because it makes you, after all, 
for the vulgar, indistinguishable from other men. 
What 's the most inveterate mark of men in 
general ? Why the capacity to spend endless 
time with dull women to spend it I won't say 
without being bored, but without minding that 
they are, without being driven off at a tangent 
by it ; which comes to the same thing. I 'm 
your dull woman, a part of the daily bread for 
which you pray at church. That covers your 
tracks more than anything." 

" And what covers yours ? " asked Marcher, 


whom his dull woman could mostly to this extent 
amuse. " I see of course what you mean by 
your saving me, in this way and that, so far as 
other people are concerned I 've seen it all 
along. Only what is it that saves you ? I often 
think, you know, of that." 

She looked as if she sometimes thought of that 
too, but rather in a different way. " Where other 
people, you mean, are concerned ? " 

" Well, you 're really so in with me, you know 
as a sort of result of my being so in with your 
self. I mean of my having such an immense 
regard for you, being so tremendously mindful of 
all you 've done for me. I sometimes ask myself 
if it 's quite fair. Fair I mean to have so involved 
and since one may say it interested you. 
I almost feel as if you had n't really had time to 
do anything else." 

" Anything else but be interested ? " she asked. 
" Ah what else does one ever want to be ? .If 
I 've been ' watching ' with you, as we long ago 
agreed I was to do, watching 's always in itself 
an absorption." 

" Oh certainly," John Marcher said, " if you 

had n't had your curiosity ! Only does n't 

it sometimes come to you as time goes on that 
your curiosity is n't being particularly repaid ? " 

May Bartram had a pause. " Do you ask that, 



by any chance, because yon feel at all that yours 
is n't ? I mean because you have to wait so 

Oh he understood what she meant ! " For the 
thing to happen that never does happen ? For 
the Beast to jump out ? No, I 'm just where 
I was about it. It is n't a matter as to which 
I can choose, I can decide for a change. It is n't 
one as to which there can be a change. It 's in 
the lap of the gods. One 's in the hands of one's 
law there one is. As to the form the law will take, 
the way it will operate, that 's its own affair." 

" Yes," Miss Bartram replied ; " of coui'se one's 
fate 's coming, of course it has come in its own 
form and its own way, all the while. Only, you 
know, the form and the way in your case were 
to have been well, something so exceptional 
and, as one may say, so particularly your own." 

Something in this made him look at her with 
suspicion. " You say ' were to have been,' as if 
in your heart you had begun to doubt." 

" Oh ! " she vaguely protested. 

" As if you believed," he went on, " that 
nothing will now take place." 

She shook her head slowly but rather in 
scrutably. " You 're far from my thought." 

He continued to look at her. " What then is 
the matter withTyou ? " 


" Well," she said after another wait, " the 
matter with me is simply that I 'm more sure 
than ever my curiosity, as you call it, will be but 
too well repaid." 

They were frankly grave now ; he had got up 
from his seat, had turned once more about the 
little drawing-room to which, year after year, he 
brought his inevitable topic ; in which he had, 
as he might have said, tasted their intimate 
community with every sauce, where every object 
was as familiar to him as the things of his own 
house and the very carpets were worn with his 
fitful walk very much as the desks in old counting- 
houses are worn by the elbows of generations of 
clerks. The generations of h:s nervous moods 
had been at work there, and the place was the 
written history of his whole middle life. Under 
the impression of what his friend had just said 
he knew himself, for some reason, more aware of 
these things ; which made him, after a moment, 
stop again before her. " Is it possibly that 
you 've grown afraid ? " 

" Afraid ? " He thought, as she repeated the 
word, that his question had made her, a little, 
change colour ; so that, lest he should have 
touched on a truth, he explained very kindly : 
" You remember that that was what you asked 
me long ago that first dav at Weatherend." 



" Oh yes, and you told me you did n't know 
that I was to see for myself. We 've said little 
about it since, even in so long a time." 

" Precisely," Marcher interposed " quite as 
if it were too delicate a matter for us to make free 
with. Quite as if we might find, on pressure, that 
I am afraid. For then," he said, " we should n't, 
should we ? quite know what to do." 

She had for the time no answer to this question. 
" There have been days when I thought you were. 
Only, of course," she added, " there have been 
days when we have thought almost anything." 

" Everything. Oh ! " Marcher softly groaned, 
as with a gasp, half spent, at the face, more un 
covered just then than it had been for a long 
while, of the imagination always with them. It 
had always had it's incalculable moments of 
glaring out, quite as with the very eyes of the 
very Beast, and, used as he was to them, they 
could still draw from him the tribute of a sigh that 
rose from the depths of lu's being. All they had 
thought, first and last, rolled over him ; the past 
seemed to have been reduced to mere barren 
speculation. This in fact was what the place had 
just struck him as so full of the simplification 
of everything but the state of suspense. That 
remained only by seeming to hang in the void 
surrounding it. Even his original fear, if fear it 


had been, had lost itself in the desert. " I judge, 
however," he continued, " that you see I 'm not 
afraid now." 

" What I see, as I make it out, is that you 've 
achieved something almost unprecedented in the 
way of getting used to danger. Living with it so 
long and so closely you 've lost your sense of it ; 
you know it 's there, but you 're indifferent, and 
you cease even, as of old, to have to whistle in 
the dark. Considering what the danger is," May 
Bartram wound up, " I 'm bound to say I don't 
think your attitude could well be surpassed." 

John Marcher faintly smiled. " It 's heroic ? " 

" Certainly call it that." 

It was what he would have liked indeed to call 
it. " I am then a man of courage ? " 

" That 's what you were to show me." 

He still, however, wondered. " But does n't 
the man of courage know what he 's afraid of 
or not afraid of ? I don't know that, you see. I 
don't focus it. I can't name it. I only know I 'm 

" Yes, but exposed how shall I say ? so 
directly. So intimately. That 's surely enough." 

" Enough to make you feel then as what we 
may call the end and the upshot of our watch 
that I 'm not afraid ? " 

" You 're not afraid. But it is n't," she said 



"the end of our watch. That is it is n't the end 
of yours. You 've everything still to see." 

" Then why have n't you ? " he asked. He had 
had, all along, to-day, the sense of her keeping 
something back, and he still had it. As this was 
his first impression of that it quite made a date. 
The case was the more marked as she did n't at 
first answer ; which in turn made him go on. 
" You know something I don't." Then his voice, 
for that of a man of courage, trembled a little. 
" You know what 's to happen." Her silence, 
with the face she showed, was almost a confession 
it made him sure. " You know, and you 're 
afraid to tell me. It 's so bad that you 're afraid 
I '11 find out." 

All this might be true, for she did look as if, 
unexpectedly to her, he had crossed some mystic 
line that she had secretly drawn round her. Yet 
she might, after all, not have worried ; and the 
real climax was that he himself, at all events, 
need n't. " You '11 never find out." 



IT was all to have made, none the less, as I have 
said, a date ; which came out in the fact that 
again and again, even after long intervals, other 
things that passed between them wore in relation 
to tliis hour but the character of recalls and results. 
Its immediate effect had been indeed rather to 
lighten insistence almost to provoke a reaction ; 
as if their topic had dropped by its own weight 
and as if moreover, for that matter, Marcher had 
been visited by one of his occasional warnings 
against egotism. He had kept up, he felt, and 
very decently on the whole, his consciousness of 
the importance of not being selfish, and it was true 
that he had never sinned in that direction without 
promptly enough trying to press the scales the 
other way. He often repaired his fault, the 
season permitting, by inviting his friend to 
accompany him to the opera ; and it not infre 
quently thus happened that, to show he did ii't 
wish her to have but one sort of food for her mind, 
he was the cause of her appearing there with him 
a dozen nights in the month. It even happened 



that, seeing her home at such times, he occasion 
ally went in with her to finish, as he called it, the 
evening, and, the better to make his point, sat 
down to the frugal but always careful little supper 
that awaited his pleasure. His point was made, 
he thought, by his not eternally insisting with her 
on himself ; made for instance, at such hours, when 
it befell that, her piano at hand and each of them 
familiar with it, they went over passages of the 
opera together. It chanced to be on one of these 
occasions, however, that he reminded her of her 
not having answered a certain question he had 
put to her during the talk that had taken place 
between them on her last birthday. " What is it 
that saves you ? " saved her, he meant, from 
that appearance of variation from the usual 
human type. If he had practically escaped re 
mark, as she pretended, by doing, in the most 
important particular, what most men do find 
the answer to life in patching up an alliance of a 
sort with a woman no better than himself how 
had she escaped it, and how could the alliance, 
such as it was, since they must suppose it had 
been more or less noticed, have failed to make 
her rather positively talked about ? 

" I never said," May Bartram replied, " that it 
had n't made me a good deal talked about." 

" Ah well then you 're not * saved.' " 


" It has n't been ? question for me. If you 've 
had your woman I 've had," she said, " my man." 

4i And you mean that makes you all right ? " 

Oh it was always as if there were so much to say ! 
" I don't know why it should n't make me 
humanly, which is what we 're speaking of as 
right as it makes you." 

" I see," Marcher returned. " ' Humanly,' no 
doubt, as showing that you 're living for something. 
Not, that is, just for me and my secret." 

May Bartram smiled. " I don't pretend it 
exactly shows that I 'm not living for you. It 's 
my intimacy with you that 's in question." 

He laughed as he saw what she meant. " Yes, 
but since, as you say, I 'm only, so far as people 
make out, ordinary, you 're are n't you ? no 
more than ordinary either. You help me to pass 
for a man like another. So if I am, as I under 
stand you, you 're not compromised. Is that 

She had another of her waits, but she spoke 
clearly enough. " That 's it. It 's all that con 
cerns me to help you to pass for a man like 

He was careful to acknowledge the remark 
handsomely. " How kind, how beautiful, you 
are to me ! How shall I ever repay you ? " 

She had her last grave pause, as if there might 



be a choice of ways. But she chose. " By going 
on as you are." 

It was into this going on as he was that they 
relapsed, and really for so long a time that the day 
inevitably came for a further sounding of their 
depths. These depths, constantly bridged over 
by a structure firm enough in spite of its lightness 
and of its occasional oscillation in the somewhat 
vertiginous air, invited on occasion, in the interest 
of their nerves, a dropping of the plummet and a 
measurement of the abyss. A difference had been 
made moreover, once for all, by the fact that she 
had all the while not appeared to feel the need 
of rebutting his charge of an idea within her that 
she did n't dare to express a charge uttered 
just before one of the fullest of their later discus 
sions ended. It had come up for liim then that 
she " knew " something and that what she knew 
was bad too bad to tell him. When he had 
spoken of it as visibly so bad that she was afraid 
he might find it out, her reply had left the matter 
too equivocal to be let alone and yet, for Marcher's 
special sensibility, almost too formidable again 
to touch. He circled about it at a distance that 
alternately narrowed and widened and that still 
was n't much affected by the consciousness in him 
that there was nothing she could " know," after 
all, any better than he did She had no source of 


knowledge he had n't equally except of course 
that she might have finer nerves. That was what 
women had where they were interested ; they 
made out things, where people were concerned, 
that the people often could n't have made out for 
themselves. Their nerves, their sensibility, their 
imagination, were conductors and revealers, and 
the beauty of May Bartram was in particular that 
she had given herself so to his case. He felt in 
these days what, oddly enough, he had never felt 
before, the growth of a dread of losing her by some 
catastrophe some catastrophe that yet would n't 
at all be the catastrophe : partly because she had 
almost of a sudden begun to strike him as more 
useful to him than ever yet, and partly by reason 
of an appearance of uncertainty in her health, co 
incident and equally new. It was characteristic 
of the inner detachment he had hitherto so 
successfully cultivated and to which our whole 
account of him is a reference, it was characteristic 
that his complications, such as they were, had 
never yet seemed so as at this crisis to thicken 
about him, even to the point of making him ask 
himself if he were, by any chance, of a truth, 
within sight or sound, within touch or reach, 
within the immediate jurisdiction, of the thing 
that waited. 

When the clay came, as come it had to, that his 



friend confessed to him her fear of a deep disorder 
in her blood, he felt somehow the shadow of a 
change and the chill of a shock. He immediately 
began to imagine aggravations and disasters, and 
above all to think of her peril as the direct menace 
for himself of personal privation. This indeed 
gave him one of those partial recoveries of equa 
nimity that were agreeable to him it showed 
him that what was still first in his mind was the 
loss she herself might suffer. " What if she should 

have to die before knowing, before seeing ? " 

It would have been brutal, in the early stages of 
her trouble, to put that question to her ; but it 
had immediately sounded for him to his own con 
cern, and the possibility was what most made him 
sorry for her. If she did " know," moreover, in 
the sense of her having had some what should 
he think ? mystical irresistible light, this would 
make the matter not better, but worse, inasmuch 
as her original adoption of his own curiosity had 
quite become the basis of her life. She had been 
living to see what would be to be seen, and it 
would quite lacerate her to have to give up before 
the accomplishment of the vision. These re 
flexions, as I say, quickened his generosity ; yet, 
make them as he might, he saw himself, with the 
lapse of the period, more and more disconcerted. 
It lapsed for him with a strange steady sweep, 


and the oddest oddity was that it gave him, in 
dependently of the threat of much inconvenience, 
almost the only positive surprise his career, if 
career it could be called, had yet offered him. 
She kept the house as she had never done ; he had 
to go to her to see her she could meet him 
nowhere now, though there was scarce a corner 
of their loved old London in which she had n't in 
the past, at one time or another, done so ; and 
he found her always seated by her fire in the deep 
old-fashioned chair she was less and less able to 
leave. He had been struck one day, after an 
absence exceeding his usual measure, with her 
suddenly looking much older to him than he had 
ever thought of her being ; then he recognised 
that the suddenness was all on his side he had 
just simply and suddenly noticed. She looked 
older because inevitably, after so many years, she 
was old, or almost ; which was of course true in 
still greater measure of her companion. If she 
was old, or almost, John Marcher assuredly was, 
and yet it was her showing of the lesson, not his 
own, that brought the truth home to him. His 
surprises began here ; when once they had begun 
they multiplied ; they came rather with a rush : 
it was as if, in the oddest way in the world, they 
had all been kept back, sown in a thick cluster, 
for the late afternoon of life, the time at which 



for people in general the unexpected has died 

One of them was that he should have caught 
himself for he had so done really wondering 
if the great accident would take form now as 
nothing more than his being condemned to see 
this charming woman, this admirable friend, 
pass away from him. He had never so unre 
servedly qualified her as while confronted in 
thought with such a possibility ; in spite of 
which there was small doubt for him that as an 
answer to his long riddle the mere effacement 
of even so fine a feature of his situation would be 
an abject anticlimax. It would represent, as 
connected with his past attitude, a drop of dignity 
under the shadow of which his existence could 
only become the most grotesques of failures. He 
had been far from holding it a failure long as 
he had waited for the appearance that was to 
make it a success. He had waited for quite 
another thing, not for such a thing as that. The 
breath of his good faith came short, however, as 
he recognised how long he had waited, or how 
long at least his companion had. That she, at all 
events, might be recorded as having waited in 
vain this affected him sharply, and all the more 
because of his at first having done little more than 
amuse himself with the idea. It grew more grave 


as the gravity of her condition grew, and the state 
of mind it produced in him, which he himself 
ended by watching as if it had been some definite 
disfigurement of his outer person, may pass for 
another of his surprises. This conjoined itself still 
with another, the really stupefying consciousness 
of a question that he would have allowed to shape 
itself had he dared. What did everything mean 
what, that is, did she mean, she and her vain 
waiting and her probable death and the soundless 
admonition of it all unless that, at this time of 
day, it was simply, it was overwhelmingly too late ? 
He had never at any stage of his queer conscious 
ness admitted the whisper of such a correction ; 
he had never till within these last few months been 
so false to his conviction as not to hold that what 
was to come to him had time, whether he struck 
himself as having it or not. That at last, at last, 
he certainly had n't it, to speak of, or had it but 
in the scantiest measure such, soon enough, as 
things went with him, became the inference with 
which his old obsession had to reckon : and tliis 
it was not helped to do by the more and more 
confirmed appearance that the great vagueness 
casting the long shadow in which he had lived had, 
to attest itself, almost no margin left. Since it 
was in Time that he was to have met his fate, so 
it was in Time that his fate was to have acted ; 
D 48 


and as he waked up to the sense of no longer being 
young, which was exactly the sense of being stale, 
just as that, in turn, was the sense of being weak, 
he waked up to another matter beside. It all 
hung together ; they were subject, he and the 
great vagueness, to an equal and indivisible law. 
When the possibilities themselves had accordingly 
turned stale, when the secret of the gods had grown 
faint, had perhaps even quite evaporated, that, 
and that only, was failure. It would n't have been 
failure to be bankrupt, dishonoured, pilloried, 
hanged ; it was failure not to be anything. And 
so, hi the dark valley into which his path had 
taken its unlooked-for twist, he wondered not a 
little as he groped. He did n't care what awful 
crash might overtake him, with what ignominy or 
what monstrosity he might yet be associated 
since he was n't after all too utterly old to suffer 
if it would only be decently proportionate to 
the posture he had kept, all his life, in the threat 
ened presence of it. He had but one desire left 
that he should n't have been " sold." 



THEN it was that, one afternoon, while the spring 
of the year was young and new she met all in her 
own way his frankest betrayal of these alarms. 
He had gone in late to see her, but evening had n't 
settled and she was presented to him in that long 
fresh light of waning April days which affects us 
often with a sadness sharper than the greyest 
hours of autumn. The week had been warm, 
the spring was supposed to have begun early, and 
May Bartram sat, for the first time in the year, 
without a fire ; a fact that, to Marcher's sense, 
gave the scene of which she formed part a smooth 
and ultimate look, an air of knowing, in its 
immaculate order and cold meaningless cheer, 
that it would never see a fire again. Her own 
aspect he could scarce have said why inten 
sified this note. Almost as white as wax, with 
the marks and signs in her face as numerous and 
as fine as if they had been etched by a needle, 
with soft white draperies relieved by a faded 
green scarf on the delicate tone of which the 
years had further refined, she was the picture of 



a serene and exquisite but impenetrable sphinx, 
whose head, or indeed all whose person, might 
have been powdered with silver. She was a 
sphinx, yet with her white petals and green fronds 
she might have been a lily too only an artificial 
lily, wonderfully imitated and constantly kept, 
without dust or stain, though not exempt from a 
slight droop and a complexity of faint creases, 
under some clear glass bell. The perfection of 
household care, of high polish and finish, always 
reigned in her rooms, but they now looked most 
as if everything had been wound up, tucked in, 
put away, so that she might sit with folded hands 
and with nothing more to do. She was " out of 
it," to Marcher's vision ; her work was over ; she 
communicated with him as across some gulf or 
from some island of rest that she had already 
reached, and it made him feel strangely abandoned. 
Was it or rather was n't it that if for so long 
she had been watching with him the answer to 
their question must have swum into her ken and 
taken on its name, so that her occupation was 
verily gone ? He had as much as charged her 
with this in saying to her, many months before, 
that she even then knew something she was 
keeping from him. It was a point he had never 
since ventured to press, vaguely fearing as he 
did that it might become a difference, perhaps a 


disagreement, between them. He had in this 
later time turned nervous, which was what he in 
all the other years had never been ; and the 
oddity was that his nervousness should have 
waited till he had begun to doubt, should have 
held off so long as he was sure. There was some 
thing, it seemed to him, that the wrong word 
would bring down on his head, something that 
would so at least ease off his tension. But he 
wanted not to speak the wrong word ; that would 
make everything ugly. He wanted the knowledge 
he lacked to drop on him, if drop it could, by its 
own august weight. If she was to forsake him it 
was surely for her to take leave. This was why 
he did n't directly ask her again what she knew ; 
but it was also why, approaching the matter from 
another side, he said to her in the course of his 
visit : " What do you regard as the very worst 
that at this time of day can happen to me ? " 

He had asked her that in the past often enough ; 
they had, with the odd irregular rhythm of their 
intensities and avoidances, exchanged ideas about 
it and then had seen the ideas washed away by 
cool intervals, washed like figures traced in sea- 
sand. It had ever been the mark of their talk 
that the oldest allusions in it required but a little 
dismissal and reaction to come out again, sound 
ing for the hour as new. She could thus at 



present meet his enquiry quite freshly and 
patiently. " Oh yes, I Ve repeatedly thought, 
only it always seemed to me of old that I could n't 
quite make up my mind. I thought of dreadful 
tilings, between which it was difficult to choose ; 
and so must you have done." 

" Rather ! I feel now as if I had scarce done 
anything else. I appear to myself to have spent 
my life in thinking of nothing but dreadful things. 
A great many of them I ' ve at different times named 
to you, but there were others I could n't name," 
" They were too, too dreadful ? " 
" Too, too dreadful some of them." 
She looked at him a minute, and there came to 
him as he met it an inconsequent sense that her 
eyes, when one got their full clearness, were still 
as beautiful as they had been in youth, only 
beautiful with a strange cold light a light that 
somehow was a part of the effect, if it was n't 
rather a part of the cause, of the pale hard sweet 
ness of the season and the hour. " And yet," she 
said at last, " there are horrors we Ve mentioned." 
It deepened the strangeness to see her, as such 
a figure in such a picture, talk of " horrors," but 
she was to do in a few minutes sometlung stranger 
yet though even of this he was to take the 
full measure but afterwards and the note of it 
already trembled. It was, for the matter of that, 


one of the signs that her eyes were having again 
the high flicker of their prime. He had to 
admit, however, what she said. " Oh yes, there 
were times when we did go far." He caught 
himself in the act of speaking as if it all were over. 
Well, he wished it were ; and the consummation 
depended for him clearly more and more on his 
friend . 

But she had now a soft smile. " Oh far ! " 

It was oddly ironic. " Do you mean you 're 
prepared to go further ? " 

She was frail and ancient and charming as she 
continued to look at him, yet it was rather as if 
she had lost the thread. " Do you consider that 
we went far ? " 

" Why I thought it the point you were just 
making that we had looked most things in the 

" Including each other ? " She still smiled. 
" But you 're quite right. We 've had together 
great imaginations, often great fears ; but some 
of them have been unspoken." 

" Then the worst we have n't faced that. I 
could face it, I believe, if I knew what you think 
it. I feel," he explained, " as if I had lost my 
power to conceive such things." And he won 
dered if he looked as blank as he sounded. " It 's 



" Then why do you assume," she asked, " that 
mine is n't ? " 

" Because you 've given me signs to the con 
trary. It is n't a question for you of conceiving, 
imagining, comparing. It is n't a question now 
of choosing." At last he came out with it. 
" You know something I don't. You 've shown 
me that before." 

These last words had affected her, he made out 
in a moment, exceedingly, and she spoke with 
firmness. " I 've shown you, my dear, nothing." 

He shook his head. " You can't hide it." 

" Oh, oh ! " May Bartram sounded over what 
she could n't hide. It was almost a smothered 

" You admitted it months ago, when I spoke 
of It to you as of something you were afraid I 
should find out. Your answer was that I could n't, 
that I would n't, and I don't pretend I have 
But you had something therefore in mind, and I 
see now how it must have been, how it still is, the 
possibility that, of all possibilities, has settled 
itself for you as the worst. This," he went on, 
" is why I appeal to you. I 'm only afraid of 
ignorance to-day I 'm not afraid of knowledge." 
And then as for a while she said nothing : " What 
makes me sure is that I see in your face and feel 
here, in this air and amid these appearances, that 


you 're out of it. You Ve done. You 've had 
your experience. You leave me to my fate." 

Well, she listened, motionless and white in her 
chair, as on a decision to be made, so that her 
manner was fairly an avowal, though still, with a 
small fine inner stiffness, an imperfect surrender. 
" It would be the worst," she finally let herself 
say. " I mean the thing I 've never said." 

It hushed him a moment. " More monstrous 
than all the monstrosities we 've named ? " 

" More monstrous. Is n't that what you suffi 
ciently express," she asked, " in calling it the 
worst ? " 

Marcher thought. " Assuredly if you mean, 
as I do, something that includes all the loss and 
all the shame that are thinkable." 

" It would if it should happen," said May 
Bartram. " What we 're speaking of, remember, 
is only my idea." 

" It 's your belief," Marcher returned. " That 's 
enough for me. I feel your beliefs are right. 
Therefore if, having this one, you give me no 
more light on it, you abandon me." 

" No, no ! " she repeated. " I 'm with you 
don't you see ? still." And as to make it more 
vivid to him she rose from her chair a move 
ment she seldom risked in these days and 
showed herself, all draped and all soft, in her 


fairness and slimness. " I have n't forsaken 

It was really, in its effort against weakness, a 
generous assurance, and had the success of the 
impulse not, happily, been great, it would have 
touched him to pain more than to pleasure. But 
the cold charm in her eyes had spread, as she 
hovered before him, to all the rest of her person, 
so that it was for the minute almost a recovery of 
youth. He could n't pity her for that ; he could 
only take her as she showed as capable even yet 
of helping him. It was as if, at the same time, 
her light might at any instant go out ; where 
fore he must make the most of it. There passed 
before him with intensity the three or four things 
he wanted most to know ; but the question that 
came of itself to his lips really covered the others. 
" Then tell me if I shall consciously suffer." 

She promptly shook her head. " Never ! " 

It confirmed the authority he imputed to her, 
and it produced on him an extraordinary effect. 
" Well, what's better than that ? Do you call 
that the worst ? " 

" You think nothing is better ? " she asked. 

She seemed to mean something so special that 
he again sharply wondered, though still with the 
dawn of a prospect of relief. " Why not, if one 
does n't know ? " After which, as their eyes, over 


his question, met in a silence, the dawn deepened, 
and something to his purpose came prodigiously 
out of her very face. His own, as he took it in, 
suddenly flushed to the forehead, and he gasped 
with the force of a perception to which, on the 
instant, everything fitted. The sound of his gasp 
filled the air ; then he became articulate. " I see 
if I don't suffer ! " 

In her own look, however, was doubt. " You 
see what ? " 

" Why what you mean what you 've always 

She again shook her head. " What I mean 
is n't what I 've always meant. It 's different." 

" It 's something new ? " 

She hung back from it a little. " Something new. 
It 's not what you think. I see what you think." 

His divination drew breath then ; only her 
correction might be wrong. "It is n't that I am 
a blockhead ? " he asked between faintness and 
grimness. " It is n't that it 's all a mistake ? " 

" A mistake ? " she pityingly echoed. That 
possibility, for her, he saw, would be monstrous ; 
and if she guaranteed him the immunity from 
pain it would accordingly not be what she had in 
mind. " Oh no," she declared ; " it 's nothing of 
that sort. You 've been right." 

Yet he could n't help asking himself if she 



were n't, thus pressed, speaking but to save him. 
It seemed to him he should be most in a hole if his 
history should prove all a platitude. " Are you 
telling me the truth, so that I shan't have been a 
bigger idiot than I can bear to know ? I have n't 
lived with a vain imagination, in the most besotted 
illusion ? I have n't waited but to see the door 
shut in my face ? " 

She shook her head again. " However the case 
stands that is n't the truth. Whatever the reality, 
it is a reality. The door is n't shut. The door 's 
open," said May Bartram. 

" Then something 's to come ? " 

She waited once again, always with her cold 
sweet eyes on him. " It 's never too late." She 
had, with her gliding step, diminished the distance 
between them, and she stood nearer to him, close 
to him, a minute, as if still charged with the 
unspoken. Her movement might have been for 
some finer emphasis of what she was at once 
hesitating and deciding to say. He had been 
standing by the chimney-piece, flreless and 
sparely adorned, a small perfect old French clock 
and two morsels of rosy Dresden constituting all 
its furniture ; and her hand grasped the shelf 
while she kept him waiting, grasped it a little as 
for support and encouragement. She only kept 
him waiting, however ; that is he only waited. 


It had become suddenly, from her movement and 
attitude, beautiful and vivid to him that she had 
something more to give him ; her wasted face 
delicately shone with it it glittered almost as 
with the white lustre of silver in her expression. 
She was right, incontestably, for what he saw in 
her face was the truth, and strangely, without 
consequence, while their talk of it as dreadful was 
still in the air, she appeared to present it as 
inordinately soft. This, prompting bewilderment, 
made him but gape the more gratefully for her 
revelation, so that they continued for some 
minutes silent, her face shining at him, her 
contact imponderably pressing, and his stare all 
kind but all expectant. The end, none the less, 
was that what he had expected failed to come to 
him. Something else took place instead, which 
seemed to consist at first in the mere closing of 
her eyes. She gave way at the same instant to 
a slow fine shudder, and though he remained 
staring though he stared in fact but the harder 
turned off and regained her chair. It was the 
end of what she had been intending, but it left 
him thinking only of that. 

" Well, you don't say ? " 

She had touched in her passage a bell near the 
chimney and had sunk back strangely pale. 
** I 'm afraid I 'm too ill." 



" Too ill to tell me ? " It sprang up sharp 
to him, and almost to his lips, the fear she 
might die without giving him light. He checked 
himself in time from so expressing his question, 
but she answered as if she had heard the words. 

" Don't you know now ? " 

" ' Now ' ? " She had spoken as if some 

difference had been made within the moment. 
But her maid, quickly obedient to her bell, was 
already with them. " I know nothing." And he 
was afterwards to say to himself that he must 
have spoken with odious impatience, such an 
impatience as to show that, supremely discon 
certed, he washed his hands of the whole question. 

" Oh ! " said May Bar tram. 

" Are you in pain ? " he asked as the woman 
went to her. 

" No," said May Bartram. 

Her maid, who had put an arm round her as if 
to take her to her room, fixed on him eyes that 
appealingly contradicted her ; in spite of which, 
however, he showed once more his mystification. 
" What then has happened ? " 

She was once more, with her companion's help, 
on her feet, and, feeling withdrawal imposed on 
him, he had blankly found his hat and gloves and 
had reached the door. Yet he waited for her 
answer. " What was to," she said. 

HE came back the next day, but she was then 
unable to see him, and as it was literally the first 
time this had occurred in the long stretch of their 
acquaintance he turned away, defeated and sore, 
almost angry or feeling at least that such a 
break in their custom was really the beginning of 
the end and wandered alone with his thoughts, 
especially with the one he was least able to keep 
down. She was dying and he would lose her ; 
she was dying and his life would end. He stopped 
in the Park, into which he had passed, and stared 
before him at his recurrent doubt. Away from 
her the doubt pressed again ; in her presence he 
had believed her, but as he felt his forlornness he 
threw himself into the explanation that, nearest 
at hand, had most of a miserable warmth for him 
and least of a cold torment. She had deceived 
him to save him to put him off with something 
in which he should be able to rest. What could 
the thing that was to happen to him be, after all, 
but just this thing that had begun to happen ? 
Her dying, her death, his consequent solitude 



that was what he had figured as the Beast in the 
Jungle, that was what had been in the lap of the 
gods. He had had her word for it as he left her 
what else on earth could she have meant ? It 
was n't a thing of a monstrous order ; not a fate 
rare and distinguished ; not a stroke of fortune 
that overwhelmed and immortalised ; it had only 
the stamp of the common doom. But poor 
Marcher at this hour judged the common doom 
sufficient. It would serve his turn, and even as 
the consummation of infinite waiting he would 
bend his pride to accept it. He sat down on a 
bench in the twilight. He hadn't been a fool. 
Something had been, as she had said, to come. 
Before he rose indeed it had quite struck him that 
the final fact really matched with the long avenue 
through which he had had to reach it. As sharing his 
suspense and as giving herself all, giving her life, to 
bring it to an end, she had come with him every step 
of the way. He had lived by her aid, and to leave 
her behind would be cruelly, damnably to raiss her. 
What could be more overwhelming than that ? 

Well, he was to know within the week, for 
though she kept him a while at bay, left him 
restless and wretched during a series of days on 
each of which he asked about her only again to 
have to turn away, she ended his trial by receiving 
him where she had always received him. Yet she 

had been brought out at some hazard into the 
presence of so many of the things that were, 
consciously, vainly, half their past, and there was 
scant service left in the gentleness of her mere 
desire, all too visible, to check his obsession and 
wind up his long trouble. That was clearly what 
she wanted ; the one thing more for her own peace 
while she could still put out her hand. He was 
so affected by her state that, once seated by her 
chair, he was moved to let everything go ; it was 
she herself therefore who brought him back, took 
up again, before she dismissed him, her last word 
of the other time. She showed how she wished 
to leave their business in order. " I 'm not sure 
you understood. You 've nothing to wait for 
more. It has come." 

Oh how he looked at her ! " Really ? " 

" Really." 

" The thing that, as you said, was to ? " 

" The thing that we began in our youth to 
watch for." 

Face to face with her once more he believed 
her ; it was a claim to which he had so abjectly 
little to oppose. " You mean that it has come as 
a positive definite occurrence, with a name and a 
date ? " 

" Positive. Definite. I don't know about the 
' name,' but, oh with a date ! " 

E 65 


He found himself again too helplessly at sea. 
" But come in the night come and passed me 

May Bartram had her strange faint smile. 
" Oh no, it has n't passed you by ! " 

" But if I have n't been aware of it and it 
has n't touched me ? " 

" Ah your not being aware of it " and she 
seemed to hesitate an instant to deal with this 
" your not being aware of it is the strangeness in 
the strangeness. It 's the w r onder of the wonder." 
She spoke as with the softness almost of a sick 
child, yet now at last, at the end of all, with the 
perfect straightness of a sibyl. She visibly knew 
that she knew, and the effect on him was of 
something co-ordinate, hi its high character, with 
the law that had ruled him. It w r as the true 
voice of the law ; so on her lips would the law 
itself have sounded. " It has touched you," she 
went on. " It has done its office. It has made 
you all its own." 

" So utterly without my knowing it ? " 

" So utterly without your knowing it." His 
hand, as he leaned to her, was on the arm of her 
chair, and, dimly smiling always now, she placed 
her own on it. "It 's enough if / know it." 

" Oh ! " he confusedly breathed, as she herself 
of late so often had done. 


" What I long ago said is true. You '11 never 
know now, and I think you ought to be content. 
You Ve had it," said May Bartram. 

" But had what ? " 

" Why what was to have marked you out. The 
proof of your law. It has acted. I 'm too glad," 
she then bravely added, " to have been able to 
see what it 's not" 

He continued to attach his eyes to her, and 
with the sense that it was all beyond him, and 
that she was too, he would still have sharply 
challenged her hadn't he so felt it an abuse of 
her weakness to do more than take devoutly 
what she gave him, take it hushed as to a revela 
tion. If he did speak, it was out of the fore 
knowledge of his loneliness to come. " If you 're 
glad of what it 's ' not ' it might then have been 
worse ? " 

She turned her eyes away, she looked straight 
before her ; with which after a moment : " Well, 
you know our fears." 

He wondered. " It 's something then we never 
feared ? " 

On this slowly she turned to him. " Did we 
ever dream, with all our dreams, that we should 
sit and talk of it thus ? " 

He tried for a little to make out that they had ; 
but it was as if their dreams, numberless enough, 



were in solution in some thick cold mist through 
which thought lost itself. " It might have been 
that we could n't talk." 

" Well " she did her best for him " not 
from this side. This, you see," she said, " is the 
other side." 

" I think," poor Marcher returned, " that 
all sides are the same to me." Then, how 
ever, as she gently shook her head in cor 
rection : " We might n't, as it were, have got 
across ? " 

" To where we are no. We 're here " she 
made her weak emphasis. 

" And much good does it do us ! " was her 
friend's frank comment. 

" It does us the good it can. It does us the 
good that it is n't here. It 's past. It 's behind," 

said May Bartram. " Before " but her voice 


He had got up, not to tire her, but it was hard 
to combat his yearning. She after all told him 
nothing but that his light had failed which he 

knew well enough without her. " Before ? " 

he blankly echoed. 

" Before you see, it was always to come. That 
kept it present." 

" Oh I don't care what comes now ! Besides," 
Marcher added, " it seems to me I liked it better 


present, as you say, than I can like it absent with 
your absence." 

" Oh mine ! " and her pale hands made light 
of it. 

" With the absence of everything." He had a 
dreadful sense of standing there before her for 
so far as anything but this proved, this bottomless 
drop was concerned the last time of their life. 
It rested on him with a weight he felt he could 
scarce bear, and this weight it apparently was 
that still pressed out what remained in him of 
speakable protest. " I believe you ; but I can't 
begin to pretend I understand. Nothing, for me, 
is past ; nothing will pass till I pass myself, which 
I pray my stars may be as soon as possible. Say, 
however," he added, " that I 've eaten my cake, 
as you contend, to the last crumb how can the 
thing I 've never felt at all be the thing I was 
marked out to feel ? " 

She met him perhaps less directly, but she met 
him unperturbed. " You take your * feelings ' 
for granted. You were to suffer your fate. That 
was not necessarily to know it." 

*' How in the world when what is such 
knowledge but suffering ? " 

She looked up at him a while in silence. " No 
you don't understand." 

" I suffer," said John Marcher. 



" Don't, don't ! " 

" How can I help at least that ? " 

" Don't I " May Bartram repeated. 

She spoke it in a tone so special, in spite of her 
weakness, that he stared an instant stared as 
if some light, hitherto hidden, had shimmered 
across his vision. Darkness again closed over it, 
but the gleam had already become for him an 
idea. " Because I have n't the right ? " 

" Don't know when you need n't," she merci 
fully urged. " You need n't for we should n't." 

" Should n't ? " If he could but know what 
she meant ! 

** No it 's too much." 

" Too much ? " he still asked but with a mysti 
fication that was the next moment of a sudden to 
give way. Her words, if they meant something, 
affected him in this light the light also of her 
wasted face as meaning all, and the sense of 
what knowledge had been for herself came over 
him with a rush which broke through into a 
question. " Is it of that then you 're dying ? " 

She but watched him, gravely at first, as to 
see, with this, where he was, and she might have 
seen something or feared something that moved 
her sympathy. " I would live for you still if 
I could." Her eyes closed for a little, as if, with 
drawn into herself, she were for a last time trying. 


" But I can't ! " she said as she raised them again 
to take leave of him. 

She could n't indeed, as but too promptly and 
sharply appeared, and he had no vision of her 
after this that was anything but darkness and 
doom. They had parted for ever in that strange 
talk ; access to her chamber of pain, rigidly 
guarded, was almost wholly forbidden him ; he 
was feeling now moreover, in the face of doctors, 
nurses, the two or three relatives attracted 
doubtless by the presumption of what she had to 
" leave," how few were the rights, as they were 
called in such cases, that he had to put forward, 
and how odd it might even seem that their 
intimacy should n't have given him more of them. 
The stupidest fourth cousin had more, even 
though she had been nothing in such a person's 
life. She had been a feature of features in his, 
for what else was it to have been so indispensable ? 
Strange beyond saying were the ways of existence, 
baffling for him the anomaly of his lack, as he 
felt it to be, of producible claim. A woman 
might have been, as it were, everything to him, 
and it might yet present him in no connexion 
that any one seemed held to recognise. If this 
was the case in these closing weeks it was the case 
more sharply on the occasion of the last offices 
rendered, in the great grey London cemetery, 



to what had been mortal, to what had been 
precious, in his friend. The concourse at her 
grave was not numerous, but he saw himself 
treated as scarce more nearly concerned with it 
than if there had been a thousand others. He 
was in short from this moment face to face with 
the fact that he was to profit extraordinarily little 
by the interest May Bartram had taken in him. 
He could n't quite have said what he expected, 
but he had n't surely expected this approach to 
a double privation. Not only had her interest 
failed him, but he seemed to feel himself un 
attended and for a reason he could n't seize 
by the distinction, the dignity, the propriety, if 
nothing else, of the man markedly bereaved. It 
was as if, in the view of society he had not been 
markedly bereaved, as if there still failed some 
sign or proof of it, and as if none the less his 
character could never be affirmed nor the defici 
ency ever made up. There were moments as the 
weeks went by when he would have liked, by 
some almost aggressive act, to take his stand 
on the intimacy of his loss, in order that it 
might be questioned and his retort, to the relief 
of his spirit, so recorded ; but the moments 
of an irritation more helpless followed fast 
on these, the moments during which, turning 
things over with a good conscience but with a 


bare horizon, he found himself wondering if he 
ought n't to have begun, so to speak, further 

He found himself wondering indeed at many 
things, and this last speculation had others to 
keep it company. What could he have done, 
after all, in her lifetime, without giving them 
both, as it were, away ? He could n't have made 
known she was watching him, for that would 
have published the superstition of the Beast. 
This was what closed his mouth now now that 
the Jungle had been threshed to vacancy and 
that the Beast had stolen away. It sounded too 
foolish and too flat ; the difference for him in this 
particular, the extinction in his life of the element 
of suspense, was such as in fact to surprise him. 
He could scarce have said what the effect re 
sembled ; the abrupt cessation, the positive 
prohibition, of music perhaps, more than any 
thing else, in some place all adjusted and all 
accustomed to sonority and to attention. If he 
could at any rate have conceived lifting the veil 
from his image at some moment of the past 
(what had he done, after all, if not lift it to her ?) 
so to do this to-day, to talk to people at large of 
the Jungle cleared and confide to them that he 
now felt it as safe, would have been not only to 
see them listen as to a goodwife's tale, but really 


to hear himself tell one. What it presently came 
to in truth was that poor Marcher waded through 
his beaten grass, where no life stirred, where no 
breath sounded, where no evil eye seemed to 
gleam from a possible lair, very much as if vaguely 
looking for the Beast, and still more as if acutely 
missing it. He walked about in an existence that 
had grown strangely more spacious, and, stopping 
fitfully in places where the undergrowth of life 
struck him as closer, asked himself yearningly, 
wondered secretly and sorely, if it would have 
lurked here or there. It would have at all events 
sprung ; what was at least complete was his 
belief in the truth itself of the assurance given 
him. The change from his old sense to his new 
was absolute and final : what was to happen had 
so absolutely and finally happened that he was 
as little able to know a fear for his future as to 
know a hope ; so absent in short was any question 
of anything still to come. He was to live entirely 
with the other question, that of his unidentified 
past, that of his having to see his fortune 
impenetrably muffled and masked. 

The torment of this vision became then his 
occupation ; he could n't perhaps have consented 
to live but for the possibility of guessing. She 
had told him, his friend, not to guess ; she had 
forbidden him, so far as he might, to know, and 


she had even in a sort denied the power in him 
to learn : which were so many things, precisely, 
to deprive him of rest. It was n't that he wanted, 
he argued for fairness, that anything past and 
done should repeat itself ; it was only that he 
should n't, as an anticlimax, have been taken 
sleeping so sound as not to be able to win back by 
an effort of thought the lost stuff of consciousness. 
He declared to himself at moments that he would 
either win it back or have done with consciousness 
for ever ; he made this idea his one motive in 
fine, made it so much his passion that none other, 
to compare with it, seemed ever to have touched 
him. The lost stuff of consciousness became thus 
for him as a strayed or stolen child to an unappeas 
able father ; he hunted it up and down very much 
as if he were knocking at doors and enquiring of 
the police. This was the spirit in which, inevit 
ably, he set himself to travel ; he started on a 
journey that was to be as long as he could make 
it ; it danced before him that, as the other side 
of the globe could n't possibly have less to say to 
him, it might, by a possibility of suggestion, have 
more. Before he quitted London, however, he 
made a pilgrimage to May Bartram's grave, took 
his way to it through the endless avenues of the 
grim suburban necropolis, sought it out in the 
wilderness of tombs, and, though he had come 



but for the renewal of the act of farewell, found 
himself, when he had at last stood by it, beguiled 
into long intensities. He stood for an hour, 
powerless to turn away and yet powerless to 
penetrate the darkness of death ; fixing with his 
eyes her inscribed name and date, beating his 
forehead against the fact of the secret they kept, 
drawing his breath, while he waited, as if some 
sense would hi pity of him rise from the stones. 
He kneeled on the stones, however, hi vain ; they 
kept what they concealed ; and if the face of the 
tomb did become a face for him it was because 
her two names became a pair of eyes that did n't 
know him. He gave them a last long look, but 
no palest light broke. 



HE stayed away, after this, for a year ; he visited 
the depths of Asia, spending himself on scenes of 
romantic interest, of superlative sanctity ; but 
what was present to him everywhere was that 
for a man who had known what he had known 
the world was vulgar and vain. The state of 
mind in which he had lived for so many years 
shone out to him, in reflexion, as a light that 
coloured and refined, a light beside which the 
glow of the East was garish cheap and thin. The 
terrible truth was that he had lost with every 
thing else a distinction as well ; the things he 
saw could n't help being common when he had 
become common to look at them. He was simply 
now one of them himself he was in the dust, 
without a peg for the sense of difference ; and 
there were hours when, before the temples of gods 
and the sepulchres of kings, his spirit turned for 
nobleness of association to the barely discrimi 
nated slab in the London suburb. That had 
become for him, and more intensely with time 
and distance, his one witness of a past glory. It 



was all that was left to him for proof or pride, yet 
the past glories of Pharaohs were nothing to him 
as he thought of it. Small wonder then that he 
came back to it on the morrow of his return. He 
was drawn there this time as irresistibly as the 
other, yet with a confidence, almost, that was 
doubtless the effect of the many months that had 
elapsed. He had lived, in spite of himself, into 
his change of feeling, and in wandering over the 
earth had wandered, as might be said, from the 
circumference to the centre of his desert. He had 
settled to his safety and accepted perforce his 
extinction ; figuring to himself, with some colour, 
in the likeness of certain little old men he re 
membered to have seen, of whom, all meagre and 
wizened as they might look, it was related that 
they had in their time fought twenty duels or 
been loved by ten princesses. They indeed had 
been wondrous for others while he was but 
wondrous for himself ; which, however, was 
exactly the cause of his haste to renew the wonder 
by getting back, as he might put it, into his own 
presence. That had quickened his steps and 
checked his delay. If his visit was prompt it was 
because he had been separated so long from the 
part of himself that alone he now valued. 

It 's accordingly not false to say that he reached 
his goal with a certain elation and stood there 


again with a certain assurance. The creature 
beneath the sod knew of his rare experience, so 
that, strangely now, the place had lost for him 
its mere blankness of expression. It met him in 
mildness not, as before, hi mockery ; it wore 
for him the air of conscious greeting that we find, 
after absence, in things that have closely belonged 
to us and which seem to confess of themselves to 
the connexion. The plot of ground, the graven 
tablet, the tended flowers affected him so as 
belonging to him that he resembled for the hour 
a contented landlord reviewing a piece of property. 
Whatever had happened well, had happened. 
He had not come back this time with the vanity 
of that question, his former worrying " What, 
what ? " now practically so spent. Yet he would 
none the less never again so cut himself off from 
the spot ; he would come back to it every month, 
for if he did nothing else by its aid he at least held 
up his head. It thus grew for him, in the oddest 
way, a positive resource ; he carried out his idea 
of periodical returns, which took their place at 
last among the most inveterate of his habits. 
What it all amounted to, oddly enough, was that 
in his finally so simplified world this garden of 
death gave him the few square feet of earth on 
which he could still most live. It was as if, being 
nothing anywhere else for any one, nothing even 



for himself, he were just everything here, and if 
not for a crowd of witnesses or indeed for any 
witness but John Marcher, then by clear right of 
the register that he could scan like an open page. 
The open page was the tomb of his friend, and 
there were the facts of the past, there the truth of 
his life, there the backward reaches in which he 
could lose himself. He did this from time to 
time with such effect that he seemed to wander 
through the old years with his hand in the arm of 
a companion who was, in the most extraordinary 
manner, his other, his younger self ; and to 
wander, which was more extraordinary yet, 
round and round a third presence not wander 
ing she, but stationary, still, whose eyes, turning 
with his revolution, never ceased to follow him, and 
whose seat was his point, so to speak, of orientation. 
Thus in short he settled to live feeding all on 
the sense that he once had lived, and dependent 
on it not alone for a support but for an identity. 

It sufficed him in its way for months and the 
year elapsed ; it would doubtless even have 
carried him further but for an accident, super 
ficially slight, which moved him, quite in another 
direction, with a force beyond any of his impres 
sions of Egypt or of India. It was a thing of the 
merest chance the turn, as he afterwards felt, 
of a hair, though he was indeed to live to believe 


that if light had n't come to him in this particular 
fashion it would still have come in another. He 
was to live to believe this, I say, though he was 
not to live, I may not less definitely mention, to 
do much else. We allow him at any rate the 
benefit of the conviction, struggling up for him at 
the end, that, whatever might have happened or 
not happened, he would have come round of him 
self to the light. The incident of an autumn day 
had put the match to the train laid from of old by 
his misery. With the light before him he knew 
that even of late his ache had only been smothered. 
It was strangely drugged, but it throbbed ; at the 
touch it began to bleed. And the touch, in the 
event, was the face of a fellow-mortal. This face, 
one grey afternoon when the leaves were thick in 
the alleys, looked into Marcher's own, at the 
cemetery, with an expression like the cut of a 
blade. He felt it, that is, so deep down that he 
winced at the steady thrust. The person who so 
mutely assaulted him was a figure he had noticed, on 
reaching his own goal, absorbed by a grave a short 
distance away, a grave apparently fresh, so that 
the emotion of the visitor would probably match 
it for frankness. This fact alone forbade further 
attention, though during the time he stayed he 
remained vaguely conscious of his neighbour, a 
middle-aged man apparently, in mourning, whose 
F 81 


bowed back, among the clustered monuments 
and mortuary yews, was constantly presented. 
Marcher's theory that these were elements in 
contact with which he himself revived, had 
suffered, on this occasion, it may be granted, a 
marked, an excessive check. The autumn day 
was dire for him as none had recently been, and 
he rested with a heaviness he had not yet known 
on the low stone table that bore May Bartram's 
name. He rested without power to move, as if 
some spring in him, some spell vouchsafed, had 
suddenly been broken for ever. If he could have 
done that moment as he wanted he would simply 
have stretched himself on the slab that was ready 
to take him, treating it as a place prepared to 
receive his last sleep. What in all the wide world 
had he now to keep awake for ? He stared before 
him with the question, and it was then that, as 
one of the cemetery walks passed near him, he 
caught the shock of the face. 

His neighbour at the other grave had with 
drawn, as he himself, with force enough in him, 
would have done by now, and was advancing 
along the path on his way to one of the gates. 
This brought him close, and his pace was slow, 
so that and all the more as there was a kind of 
hunger in his look the two men were for a 
minute directly confronted. Marcher knew him 


at once for one of the deeply stricken a percep 
tion so sharp that nothing else in the picture 
comparatively lived, neither his dress, his age, 
nor his presumable character and class ; nothing 
lived but the deep ravage of the features that he 
showed. He showed them that was the point ; 
he was moved, as he passed, by some impulse that 
was either a signal for sympathy or, more possibly, 
a challenge to an opposed sorrow. He might 
already have been aware of our friend, might at 
some previous hour have noticed in him the 
smooth habit of the scene, with which the state 
of his own senses so scantly consorted, and might 
thereby have been stirred as by an overt discord. 
What Marcher was at all events conscious of was 
in the first place that the image of scarred passion 
presented to him was conscious too of some 
thing that profaned the air ; and in the second 
that, roused, startled, shocked, he was yet the 
next moment looking after it, as it went, with 
envy. The most extraordinary thing that had 
happened to him though he had given that 
name to other matters as well took place, after 
his immediate vague stare, as a consequence of 
this impression. The stranger passed, but the 
raw glare of his grief remained, making our friend 
wonder in pity what wrong, what wound it 
expressed, what injury not to be healed. What 



had the man had, to make him by the loss of it so 
bleed and yet live ? 

Something and this reached him with a pang 
that he, John Marcher, had n't ; the proof of 
which was precisely John Marcher's arid end. 
No passion had ever touched him, for this was 
what passion meant ; he had survived and 
maundered and pined, but where had been his 
deep ravage ? The extraordinary thing we speak 
of was the sudden rush of the result of this ques 
tion. The sight that had just met his eyes named 
to him, as in letters of quick flame, something he 
had utterly, insanely missed, and what he had 
missed made these things a train of fire, made 
them mark themselves in an anguish of inward 
throbs. He had seen outside of his life, not 
learned it within, the way a woman was mourned 
when she had been loved for herself : such was 
the force of his conviction of the meaning of the 
stranger's face, which still flared for him as a 
smoky torch. It had n't come to him, the know 
ledge, on the wings of experience ; it had brushed 
him, jostled him, upset him, with the disrespect 
of chance, the insolence of accident. Now that 
the illumination had begun, however, it blazed to 
the zenith, and what he presently stood there 
gazing at was the sounded void of his life. He 
gazed, he drew breath, in pain ; he turned in his 


dismay, and, turning, he had before him in 
sharper incision than ever the open page of his 
story. The name on the table smote him as the 
passage of his neighbour had done, and what it 
said to him, full in the face, was that she was 
what he had missed. This was the awful thought, 
the answer to all the past, the vision at the dread 
clearness of which he turned as cold as the stone 
beneath him. Everything fell together, confessed, 
explained, overwhelmed ; leaving him most of all 
stupefied at the blindness he had cherished. The 
fate he had been marked for he had met with a 
vengeance he had emptied the cup to the lees ; 
he had been the man of his time, the man, to whom 
nothing on earth was to have happened. That 
was the rare stroke that was his visitation. So 
he saw it, as we say, in pale horror, while the 
pieces fitted and fitted. So she had seen it while 
he did n't, and so she served at this hour to drive 
the truth home. It was the truth, vivid and 
monstrous, that all the while he had waited the 
wait was itself his portion. This the companion 
of his vigil had at a given moment made out, and 
she had then offered him the chance to baffle his 
doom. One's doom, however, was never baffled, 
and on the day she told him his own had come 
down she had seen him but stupidly stare at the 
escape she offered him. 



The escape would have been to love her ; then, 
then he would have lived. She had lived who 
could say now with what passion ? since she had 
loved him for himself ; whereas he had never 
thought of her (ah how it hugely glared at him !) 
but in the chill of his egotism and the light of her 
use. Her spoken words came back to him the 
chain stretched and stretched. The Beast had 
lurked indeed, and the Beast, at its hour, had 
sprung ; it had sprung in that twilight of the cold 
April when, pale, ill, wasted, but all beautiful, 
and perhaps even then recoverable, she had risen 
from her chair to stand before him and let him 
imaginably guess. It had sprung as he did n't 
guess ; it had sprung as she hopelessly turned 
from him, and the mark, by the time he left her, 
had fallen where it was to fall. He had justified 
his fear and achieved his fate ; he had failed, with 
the last exactitude, of all he was to fail of ; and 
a moan now rose to his lips as he remembered she 
had prayed he might n't know. This horror of 
waking this was knowledge, knowledge under 
the breath of which the very tears in his eyes 
seemed to freeze. Through them, none the less, 
he tried to fix it and hold it ; he kept it there 
before him so that he might feel the pain. That 
at least, belated and bitter, had something of the 
taste of life. But the bitterness suddenly sickened 

him, and it was as if, horribly, he saw, in the 
truth, in the cruelty of his image, what had been 
appointed and done. He saw the Jungle of his 
life and saw the lurking Beast ; then, while he 
looked, perceived it, as by a stir of the air, rise, 
huge and hideous, for the leap that was to settle 
him. His eyes darkened it was close ; and, 
instinctively turning, in his hallucination, to avoid 
it, he flung himself, face down, on the tomb. 




ii P ti f\t i 

t NOV 

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APR 1 




770 V 




r n i 

1[_ 5 200 


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3 1210 00514 7960